Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mark Twain Speaks

Besides being America's first great author, Mark Twain was incontestably one of the greatest and funniest storytellers. In his lectures he honed and fine-tuned certain tales, into a form that often surpassed the earlier, written-down versions. Here is one such example, included by Twain's own request in his memoirs. It is probably one of the funniest paragraphs ever committed to paper.

Look at Mariar Whitaker -- there was a girl for you! Little? Why yes, she was little, but what of that? Look at the heart of her -- had a heart like a bullock -- just as good and sweet and lovely and generous as the day is long; if she had a thing and you wanted it, you could have it -- have it and welome; why Mariar Whitaker couldn't have a thing and another person need it and not get it -- get it and welcome. She had a glass eye, and she used to lend it to Flora Ann Baxter that hadn't any, to receive company with; well, she was pretty large, and it didn't fit; it was a number 7, and she was excavated for a 14, and so that eye wouldn't lay still; every time she winked it would turn over. It was a beautiful eye and set her off admirable, because it was a lovely pale blue on the front side -- the side you look out of -- and it was gilded on the back side; didn't match the other eye, which was one of them browny-yellery eyes and tranquil and quiet, you know, the way that kind of eyes are; but that warn't any matter -- they worked together all right and plenty picturesque. When Flora Ann winked, that blue and gilt eye would whirl over, and the other one stand still, and as soon as she begun to get excited that handmade eye would give a whirl and then go on a-whirlin' and a-whirlin' faster and faster, and a-flashing first blue and then yaller and then blue and then yaller, and when it got to whizzing and flashing like that, the oldest man in the world couldn't keep up with the expression on that side of her face.